Category Archives: Life

sound of cemeteries

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The Lord knows what we need, when we need it. He knew I needed to visit a cemetery on a hill on a brisk New Zealand spring to find closure, grieve and celebrate a life well lived.

*note, this post was written in October 2014

I’m in Akaroa today. It was a French colony and has a beautiful bay. The weather was excellent—bright, blue skies and brisk spring weather.

I hiked with a friend to an Anglican cemetery on a hill overlooking the city’s lighthouse and bay.
Home at Last
I wandered past tombstones with names of old and dates even older. We then made our way to the Catholic and “Dissenters” cemetery. The Anglican cemetery housed the remains of men and women with English last names. The Catholic cemetery’s stones had French last names, for the many French settlers in the colony, as well as Irish last names. Earlier today, I met a fifth-generation French woman who owns a dolphin tour company.

The Dissenters were English men and men who broke from the Church of England. They advocated for a separation of church and state and called for a Protestant Reformation of sorts in England.

I loved the Dissenters cemetery. On the tombstones are quarter-length ‘tweet testaments’ to God’s grace and their departure to their eternal home.

“Thy will be done” and “in a better place” were etched in tombstones.

With Christ, which is far better

With Christ, which is far better

My grandmother passed away this week. I wasn’t able to return for the funeral. It was really hard for me. Had I been in my city, I could have made it. After exhausting options, I accepted the fact that I’d have to miss remembering the matriarch of my mom’s side of the family.

A year and a half ago I lost my grandfather on my dad’s side. I was thankful I was in the U.S. to grieve, remember and celebrate his life well lived.

But God allowed me to remember my grandmother –not in the way I’d imagined. As I strolled up and down the rows of stone memorials, I realized the Lord was allowing me a chance to remember and grieve. I wasn’t in the cemetery where my maternal grandfather and uncle are buried and where my grandmother was being laid to rest. But I was in a cemetery, and as I read the last testaments and memories that family members chose to forever etch on tombstones, I was able to mentally write ones for Grandmomma.

“Peace, perfect peace,” and “until the day breaks and the shadows flee away,” are two of my favorites.”

Reading these on the tombstones reminded me that she’s in her eternal home. I could imagine I was there in the Lowcountry graveyard.

I didn’t know the people buried there, but I know the bonds of family, the love and the grief.

Some of the dates I saw on the stones were similar to my grandmother’s birth date.

Tombstone in the Dissenter's cemetery

Peace, perfect peace

On the walk down the graveyard hill, I crunched on a carpet of browned pine needles. I realized this was my chance to be in South Carolina—in a “Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe” sort of way. The path behind my grandmother’s house is carpeted with fallen pine needles. Pine needles cushioned the back yard of the home she lived in for her entire married life.

Cemeteries aren’t what you initially think of when you think of a peaceful and serene location. Perhaps an even stranger thought is of a cemetery being a vacation attraction.

But for me, I could celebrate the life of a woman who is now at ‘peace, perfect peace,’ and no longer has to wait ‘till the day breaks’ to find eternal healing and eclipsing joy. I was thousands of miles away—on the shores of “Middle Earth,” but the Lord granted me a window into the time of remembrance that I’d of otherwise missed.

The Lord knows what we need. He knew I’d be at the base of a glacier named after an Austrian leader when I returned the missed calls with a lump in my throat—knowing what words would soon leave my father’s lips and travel invisibly over the ocean to the ‘glow worm cottage’ I was staying in. He knew I wouldn’t be able to make it back to South Carolina. He knew I needed to travel to Austria through the songs of the Von Trapp family in Auckland’s Civic Theater.

Until the day breaks and the shadows flee away

Until the day breaks and the shadows flee away

Grandmomma loved songs. Her Alzheimer’s and dementia claimed a lot of memories – but hymns and Scripture were rooted deep in her mind in areas that disease could not claim.

I remember clearly the afternoon a preacher came by to visit my grandmother. I think I remember that she had had a hard week and her sentences didn’t always fit together and her memory was fading. The preacher made rounds, visiting the elderly and aging in the country.

We sat at the kitchen table, with a view of the carpet of pine needles, and I remember him saying something to the effect of, “Well, Miss Grace, shall we sing?” He started singing a hymn in a soulful and bluesy voice and my grandmother sang along—remembering all of the lyrics perfectly.

The day of the funeral, I went to see The Sound of Music live. The musical is a favorite of mine – my dad would substitute “Tessa Lyn” for “Eidelweiss” in the Austrian ballad. I couldn’t be with my family but through another Aslan-like plan, God closed a door, but like Maria sang, he opened a window. There’s something healing about music. It’s invigorating and the hills in New Zealand are really alive with the Sound of Music. “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” is a powerful song, the soprano singer who played Sister Abbess did a phenomenal job, her powerful voice gave me chills and I closed my eyes during part of it to absorb it. My grandmother was a woman who climbed every mountain and forded every stream.

I was able to watch part of the funeral, via streaming live feed, and I loved the hymns my family chose and I could imagine my grandmother sitting in her pew, singing for memory the songs of the Baptist hymnal. I watched online along with my cousin who lives in Germany.

Carpet of pine needles

Carpet of pine needles leading out to the bay in Akaroa, New Zealand

He donned a tux. I wore last night’s make up—the funeral was at 4:30 a.m. New Zealand time.

As I was watching, my phone data ran out and the hostel’s Wi-Fi refused to wake up from its intoxicated state. Frantically, I ran first to the front desk and then jogged down the dusky dawn streets of Auckland, looking for Wifi.

Starbucks. Must make it, I thought.

I jogged past an abandoned pair of black pumps and was cat-called in an alley. I passed people who’d been out all night. I realized this wasn’t the safest decision—running on a downtown, dark street in an unfamiliar megacity.

Starbucks was still a sleeping giant. I hesitate and pause on the street and start to turn to return to the hostel.

“Are you OK ma’am?” a Samoan security guard in a bright orange vest asked. He was on late-night patrolling the streets after Diwali festivities. Diwali is a South Asian holiday.

I explained my failed mission while holding back tears. He offered to let me use his phone as a hotspot. By the time we had it active, I’d missed the funeral’s finale.

I found a kind Samoan soul who sympathized and let a stranger use his data to connect to South Carolina. I told him he was an answer to prayer. I told him I’d prayed for help, and God sent help.

“God bless you,” I told him.

If anything, my mad dash was a chance to, in a small way, be a witness. If it was a song title, I’d say it was One Direction’s “Midnight Memories—” well, a gospel one, anyway.

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I shall be satisfied when I awake with thy likeness

Thanks to another wardrobe, more commonly known as the Internet, I was able to be at my grandmother’s funeral, even if it was only for a short part. Thanks also to technology, I was able to watch the remainder of the service later on YouTube – an interconnected web of wardrobes. I’m thankful for the maze of mirrors, windows and wardrobes that connected me, in Middle Earth, to a small town with a street name with a Tolkien-sounding name if there ever was one.

God’s plans are not our own. Like Maria found—things turn out differently than we expected. I’ll see you on the other side, Grandmomma.

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ballet flats and truck beds

Today I borrowed a truck with a “Carryboy,” a hood on the back, to pick up a piece of furniture from a village known for its furniture and handicrafts. I’d discovered yesterday that the Toyota Soluna I have been using is not large enough to accommodate my purchase – a coat/purse/umbrella rack.

After making the long trek to the south side of town, I found that the back hood wouldn’t open. The shop owner and I pulled and pulled to no avail.

I debated whether I could fit through the small window from the cab into the truck bed.

“I think I can fit,” a young Thai girl says, appearing from another shop. She probably weighs 90 pounds soaking wet and is around 5’2.”

“Oh? Really? Do you mind?”

“No, not at all!”

Thai people are SO helpful and friendly.

Sure enough, she was able to maneuver through the window. With more pulling and prodding, she was able to pop the lock with the aid of another shopkeeper who came to help pull from the outside.

We had to leave the back door open because I wouldn’t be able to open it once I arrived at home.

“Drive slowly,” they told me.

After thanking them all profusely, I headed to a friend’s house to pick up to items I’d purchased from them.

When I opened the door to the back seat, I see a pair of size 5, cream-colored ballet flats that perfectly matched my rescuer’s dress (yes, she offered to crawl through in a cream-colored dress)

My new friend is now walking around barefoot.

Thankfully, I had the business card of the shop owner. I called and explained I had the shoes of the girl who helped. She said I could bring them by whenever – now or later. I decided to return, even though it was a bit of a trek back out, because my house is on the complete opposite side of town.

I slowly chug along, in a truck that is as old as I am, with an office chair and wooden coat/purse rack in the back. I stop on the side of the highway to make sure my rack and chair are OK and get mud on my khaki pants.

I arrive back at the shop to find everyone gone. I call again and explain that I’ll leave the shoes at the shop two doors down on a carved tree stump sitting next to a wooden elephant and stone Buddha.

I had a mental picture of the girl driving her motorbike home, barefoot. Poor thing!

I raced the rain back home, praying it wouldn’t since the back hood was open. I managed to pull in to my carport before the rain.

Welcome to a day in the life of Tessa. There is never a dull moment.

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On Frodo and Fairies

There’s nothing quite like curling up in a recliner or in the warmth of your bed with a great book that, in a way, draws you in through the cover into the pages and transforms you into something like an invisible observer of the plot — think Scrooge in A Christmas Carol. A good story, J.R.R. Tolkien would say, births desirability. This is a desire to be a part of the journey and the adventure. It is almost an ironic balance – the reader is pleased to be in the comfort of his or her home, safe from dungeons and dragons, but as Tolkien writes in “On Fairy Stories,” there is a part of us that wishes we could enter the dangerous unknown world. After all, as Tolkien says, the heart is harder and stronger than the body.

I love this quote,

“Of course, I in my timid body did not wish to have them [characters from fairy stories] in the neighbourhood, intruding into my relatively safe world, in which it was, for instance, possible to read stories in peace of mind, free from fear. But the world that contained even the imagination of Fafnir was richer and more beautiful, at whatever cost of peril. The dweller in the quiet and fertile plains may hear of the tormented hills and the unharvested sea and long for them in his heart. For the heart is hard though the body be soft,” J.R.R. Tolkien, “On Fairy Stories.”

I think in many of us, there is a thirst to be involved in something that has risk and danger and adventure. We want to be the Frodo who is involved in a grand adventure to say Middle Earth. The fantastic thing about fairy stories is the Eucatastrophe – a phrase Tolkien coined that describes when, right at peril’s edge, there is a sudden change of events that keeps the protagonist from ultimate peril. We imagine this scenario, the eucatastrophe, carrying out in our lives too. And, really, it has. Jesus’ birth is the eucatastrophe to man’s history. The resurrection was the eucatastrophe to the incarnation.

Myths and fairy tales have a power to move and inspire.

“Fairy tales are like that; they’re like the songs we hear that break out hearts with joy, the sunsets that make us cry happy tears, the mountains and canyons that fill us with wonder,” Charlie W. Starr writes.

Even more so, the Gospel is like that. The story of Christ’s sacrifice hits to the core—that God would die for man is a concept not many can comprehend. That the entire narrative of the Bible is God’s redemption of man causes happy tears. The beauty of creation leaves us in wonder of the God who created everything for His glory.

In reading myths like The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings, we are reminded of the truths that unite us, the truths that we find in the Bible. We see them in different characters than in the Bible, but these characters could be the very reader who reads them. Reepicheep, who “seeks first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness,” should be everyone one of us. Edmund is the human, who Christ died for. In reading about Sarumon, we see how good was corrupted. In Gollum, we find that even the most sinful creature can find forgiveness. In Frodo, we see a tainted character who is obedient to a higher calling.

In these stories, we are reminded of Adam, or Eve, of Lucifer, of Paul. We are reminded of who we are, who we could be and who we should not be. The ultimate myth, the original myth, is the Bible, and nothing else compares. We can all find similarities with the characters in the Bible.

I know I personally feel the conflicting desire to be safe in the warmth of my own home, but at the same time I have the yearning to go out into “the tormented hills and the unharvested sea.” I think it is the desire to be a part of something that is bigger than your self and be a part of something that matters.

And, we readily accept that there may be danger involved, because if there wasn’t, could it really be considered an adventure and sacrifice?

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Life in Color

Living life in color. Bursting out of the seams of the Shadowlands. That’s what we, modern-day Narnians, long for.
OneRepublic’s “Life in Color” I think can be borrowed to describe what C.S. Lewis writes about in “Myth Became Fact.”

From the darkest grays
The sun bursts, clouds break
Yeah, we see that fire
From the streets of Babylon
To the road that we’ve been on now
The kaleidoscope claims another

Whoa oh oh oh
Well this is life in color (color)
Today feels like no other (other)
And the darkest grays
The sun bursts, clouds break

Whoa oh oh oh
Well this is life in motion (motion)
And just when I could run this race no more
The sun bursts, clouds break
This is life in color

You’ve seen my worst
Yet you see some hope in me
The black and white sets us free
Like the queen to the rook
Your decision is a sure thing
Honey yeah, a sure thing
No wonder I feel
Like I’m missing a heavy load
But no matter what daylight brings to us
We all know

Whoa oh oh oh
Well this is life in color (color)
Today feels like no other (other)
And the darkest grays
The sun bursts, clouds break

Now, I seriously doubt whether Ryan Tedder, the front man for OneRepublic, intended the song to mean what I’m going to make it mean for this post. He does comes from a family of missionaries and pastors, but, I’m not sure he had in mind the connections to Lewis and Tolkien that I am about to make.

Charlie W. Starr wrote an essay titled, “The Silver Chair and the Silver Screen: C.S. Lewis on Myth, Fairy Tale and Film.” Starr opens his essay with a description of Plato’s “The Allegory of the Cave” and how it describes the “real world” and how we live in a life of illusions, a life viewing shadows on a cave wall. They are imperfect pictures of a reality that does exist outside of the cave.

In Lewis’ The Last Battle, the characters of the former books come in to Aslan’s country. Everything there looks similar to Narnia, but is more real and perfect, the way it should be. This is similar to Plato’s real world, Starr writes.

Starr writes that we get glimpses of this more real world through looking glasses – like in Alice does in Alice in Wonderland. Brochures, Starr says, frame things and make them look different than they are in real life. Starr said this is because it is in a frame. I’ve noticed this happens sometimes with travel photography. I’ve looked at a photo and thought, “I’ve been there, wow, that looks … different … from what I remembered…” The photo “frame” tends to make the place look better.

Movies, pictures and brochures make things look more real and more beautiful than they do in real life, Starr says. When we watch movies, everything is magnified and amplified into something that looks more meaningful than the drudgery of our days. In movies, our world is played back to us and mirrored to us – everything looks deeper and better.

Scenes that happen on screen often happen in our everyday lives – like weddings, or hikes in the woods, or airplane rides — but somehow they’re more exciting on the silver screen than they are in our lives.

Lewis would say this is because we live in the Shadowlands. We have glimpses of Narnia; yet, we are not residing there.

Things on TV and in these “mirrors” seem to mean more. But, Starr asks, what is meaning?

Meaning comes from more than just words – it is in the seeing and experiencing.

“Lewis believed that imagining was as important as reasoning. We don’t normally associate imagination with a practical search for knowledge, but Lewis did,” Starr writes.

Imagination needs to take form, for true meaning and understanding to happen.

In “Myth Became Fact,” Lewis writes about the difference between abstraction and experience – thinking versus experiencing. Lewis writes that experiencing enables us to understand things concretely instead of simply knowing of something but never experiencing it.

I can know or believe that New Zealand is beautiful, but until I’ve been there, it’s a beauty that lives in abstraction. I can know that breaking a bone hurts, but until I actually break one, my knowledge of this is second-hand. I can know poverty exists, but until I walked through the slums of India, I didn’t really have the deep-seated compassion that comes with seeing firsthand.

Starr uses the example of Eustace, a character in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Eustace was an example of someone who was all thought and no experience. Starr writes. Eustace needed to experience reality – he was too far in the abstract.

“He needs a higher reality, a world of the fantastic far more real than his own,“ Star wrote.

At the end of the book, Eustace realizes what he’d been missing.

Starr mentions Lewis’ “The Great Divorce” and how there is no abstraction in heaven. Everything there is truly, “life in color.”

But, here in the Shadowlands, we are still living life in abstraction Starr writes.

Lewis would say that myth helps us with this. Myth is the abstraction realized. It’s a story of experience that we can engage in. It is the tale of something bigger than us but it is something we can relate to and relates truth to us in an experiential way.

The line in the One Republic song I mentioned above –  “And just when I could run this race no more / The sun bursts, clouds break / This is life in color.”

Tolkien would perhaps call a “eucatastrophe.” Tolkien coined this word in his essay “On Fairy Stories” to describe the intervention or turn of events that saves the protagonist from imminent harm. In Lord of the Rings, it might be when Frodo and Sam are saved from death the eagles, Clyde S. Kilby wrote in an essay on Tolkien.

Tolkien writes that Christ coming to earth was the eucatastrophe to the fall of man and the resurrection was the eucatastrophe to the incarnation.

Just as the OneRepublic song says, or sings, just when we thought we could run the race no more, the Son bursts forth through the clouds—we are saved by His sacrifice, and we can truly live life in color. We can live, because we’ve experienced the saving grace of God made flesh, when we choose to let Christ save us — that is our eucatastrophe. We’ve experienced and we leave the life of abstraction into a life of color and vibrancy.

As I mentioned previously, in The Last Battle, the Narnian characters enter Aslan’s country. It’s similar to the life of color they’d already experienced, but, it was different, better, more beautiful and “more perfect.”

“The heroes of Narnia have entered Lewis’ version of Plato’s most real world. Digory explains that the old Narnia was not the real one and so will pass away. It was only a copy of the real Narnia which never had a beginning and will never see an end,” Starr writes.

As believers, we have the promise of entering God’s kingdom. It will see no end and be a richer, fuller and more beautiful place from anything we’ve experienced. We will finally and forever leave Plato’s cave we will truly be living life in color, worshiping our Savior and God. That day will truly feel like none other.

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closing chapters

How do you close a chapter in life?

I think it’s similar to finishing a really superb book – the kind of book where you eat up every line until the last line, consuming and enjoying every word and minute. It’s the kind of book you get lost in, where the characters seem as real as the man sitting next to you in the songtaew (Thai taxi). Great books make you feel you’re a part of the drama.

When the last chapter ends and the last line is digested, there’s a sense of sadness that it’s over, that the journey you were just on has ended. You close the book, thinking, wow, that was good. You close it half wishing you hadn’t read it so quickly.

This happened for me recently with “A Tale of Two Cities,” by Charles Dickens. I’m not sure why I’d never read it before. Well, actually, I do know why. I think God had me read it this year.

I finished Dickens’ masterpiece on the Thai Airways flight home from my last media coverage as a journeyman. I sat between two coworkers and friends and ooh-ed and ah-ed over the last scenes and sentences (they can attest to how verbal I was).

Now I realize how symbolic my reading and finishing the book was. I’m closing a chapter of life – just as I closed out on my final voyage with Dickens’ book about two cities and the adventures held within them.

During my almost three years here, I’ve spent time in more than just two cities. I’ve been a part of stories that are in some ways just as dramatic if not more so than “A Tale of Two Cities.”  Sans the guillotines, of course, but these stories had dangers just as real as the French machine of death. It’s been an awesome “book” and I feel so blessed to have lived it. Thank you Lord, for the lessons learned, the adventures had and the challenges I’ve learned from.

Finishing “A Tale of Two Cities” felt a little like grieving. It’s that good. I was sad to say goodbye to the characters, action and drama. Finishing my time here as a journeyman feels like grieving.

The feeling of the loss of something great happens with some TV series too. My brother and I were immersed in a British TV-series called “Foyle’s War.” When we finished the last episode, our shared memories seemed to end. We finished something great – something we’d spent hours together watching over Christmas. This happened to me when “Lost” ended too. All those years spent, waiting for resolution and it never came. We won’t get into that.

While some people may feel like instantly reading great books and watching TV series again, I’ve found that I don’t. When I say this, I mean, I don’t feel like closing the book then re-open and start reading it again or watching the TV series again. I do re-read and re-watch and I want to do this, but I’ve found I need space in between the reading and watching – time to absorb and remember. For me, re-reading and re-watching are never quite the same as reading or watching the first time either. The suspense and mystery are known.

It’s the same with my time here as a journeyman. I can’t and won’t go back to “re-live” it right now that it’s over – as good as the past three years have been. The adventure won’t ever be as fresh as the first time living and experiencing it. And it shouldn’t be.  You can’t live in the past. You can remember the past and you can re-visit it.

I’ve found that after reading a great book, I’m inspired to find and read another that’s equally as epic. Great books have a tendency to do that. Excellent books put you on a manhunt to find and discover a book that have the same immersing effect on you.

I think it’s the same with life. I’ve just closed out the last chapter of a “book” of my life – my time here in Chiang Mai as a journeyman. I’m inspired to find the next book that will so move me as the past three years did.

Yes, I will be returning here next year, but the “book” will be different. I lived here in Chiang Mai as a elementary, middle and high school student and that book was VERY different from my “journeyman book.” Little did I know when I graduated from high school that I’d be returning to Chiang Mai for a very different adventure.

In the next saga of “Tessa’s life in Chiang Mai,” there will be new drama, new characters and new challenges.  I don’t know what these are yet, but just like you don’t know the ending to a great book, you wouldn’t want to because it’d spoil the journey of reading it.

Now, I know of some people who read the ending of books first. I have plenty to say about that but I’ll save it for another inspired-blog-writing-moment.

In a few short days, I’ll be closing the final chapter of an epic book. There will be grieving at its end – at the end of this fine adventure. But, I’m inspired to see what God’s written in the next book of my life.

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Un-bieber-able – Justin Bieber, a gymnast

It’s an exciting time. It’s Olympics and everyone’s going crazy. Bieber is too.

Thought y’all might enjoy this interchange between my dad and I on Skype.

Sometimes names are similar, too similar, as I just found out.

Dad: How about surprise with Beiber girl losing to her roommate?
Me: What?
Dad: Women’s gymnastics
Me: Oh! I missed those events, what happened?
Dad: The USA girl expected to win didn’t qualify for final
Me: Oohh I need to catch the replay
Dad: Just missed out
Me: She is Bieber’s girlfriend?
Dad: Her roommate who was not given as good a chance had her personal best on the bars and it lifted her above. She is now in first spot
Me: Oh nice
Dad: It is the overall routine
Me: Wow, I need to find the replay
Me: How is Bieber involved?
Dad: Yeah likely find it on NBC
Me: I am still confused
Dad: About?
Me: How is Bieber involved
Dad: Not Justin but a girl
Me: Oh, you said Bieber girl so I wasn’t sure if she was a fan of his or some gf
Dad: Similar name

Me: I am cracking up here, lol
Dad: Name is Wieber, not Bieber
Me: Hahaha lol!
Dad: :) Kinda same
Me: Haha, you are awesome! love it!

So, no, Justin Bieber’s girlfriend, (I guess that’d be Selena Gomez?) isn’t an Olympic athlete and didn’t fail to qualify for the finals. I’m sure it’d be amusing to see Selena Gomez on the uneven bars. She’d probably do quite well with the floor routine.

I mean, my imagination really was running wild – I was thinking maybe she is such a fan of the Biebs that she couldn’t concentrate on her routine for fear of missing a Bieber sighting or concert. You never know, he could parachute out of a helicopter into the gymnastics arena with Kate Middleton (now Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge).

I bet that would make Jordyn Wieber’s day and liven her spirits.

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Knowing God’s Will

*This is a message I gave for a summer conference in a friend’s church a few weeks ago. I’ve removed a few key illustrations for security reasons.

Decisions never leave us in life. Crossroads can creep into our lives without warning. Other times though, the crossroads are more like the final exam that looms in the foreground.

You’d think that after you choose your college and major, then you’d be done with major life decisions. I’m here to tell you that is not the case. I’m almost 25 and I am still figuring my life out.

What are the decisions you have in front of you? Any of you applying to colleges? Deciding what to be involved in during the next school year? Looking for a summer job? Have you been overwhelmed by the decisions?

I don’t know about y’all, but I am a worrier. Do we have any worriers in the room? I worry about big decisions often.

I know I’ve exasperated my parents with my “what if’s” and my worries.

My worries in the past were, “What if I don’t get into Baylor, what if I don’t get the writing job I want overseas, what if …”

My question now is: what do I do after this three-year assignment? What if I come back right away, what if I stay in the U.S., and if I stay, will I be able to come back? What if I chose the wrong seminary?

The questions are endless and typically end up with me overwhelmed and exasperated.

Have you felt overwhelmed and exasperated with decisions and not known what to do ? If you haven’t, you probably will sometime in the future.

Well, how can we know what to do and how to make these decisions?

First, let’s look at Matthew 6:34. “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Even though this verse tells us not to worry, it’s still so easy to worry. When you think about it, it is quite silly. We are children of the King. He’s mapped out Creation to the end and we are worrying about our life when He already knows what happens and it is for our good.

Sometimes it seems much easier to worry about the future than what we have on our plates right now.

In this passage, Matthew tells us to look at the lilies and how God cares for them, and wouldn’t he also care for us? He cares for the animals, wouldn’t he also care for us?

We’re told not to worry about tomorrow. We have enough to worry about today. Our hearts know this. Our heads have trouble grasping it.

Worry makes you look down at everything that’s overwhelming in your life instead of looking to Him. Worry causes us to look away from God.

That’s a scary thought isn’t it?

Looking away from God? Think about that. We are looking away from our Sustainer. I don’t think we realize sometimes we are doing this.

It seems easier to worry and take things into your own hands. For some reason, we think, well, I am not going to wait for God to answer, so I’ll just do what I want. Or maybe it’s that we don’t trust He will answer. By taking a decision into our own hands, we think, oh, well at least we’re getting it done know we’re getting it done.

I don’t know how y’all feel, but sometimes I feel like by letting my worry go, I will be dropping the ball. It’s hard to let go. It’s kind of like on roller coasters, when you want to lift your hands in the air when you go over the steep hill, but you kinda still want to hang on. How many people have flown out of roller coasters when they let go?

The Lord has been teaching me a lot about letting go and letting him. Matthew says, in chapter 5 verse 3, “God blesses those who recognize their need for Him.” Matthew 5:3. Once we recognize we need Him to make the decision, we are blessed.

How can we stop worrying and recognize we need Him and let go. Worry is just so hard to let go of.

Recognizing our need though may sometimes feel like failure. It isn’t.

We need to raise our gaze and seek God’s will. How do we seek God’s will? How do we become more like Him? How do we know His will for our lives?

One of the ways we do that is through meditating on God’s word.

In Joshua 1:8-9 it says, “Study this Book of the Law continually. Meditate on it day and night so you may obey all that is written in it. Only then you will succeed. I command you – be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go”

Joshua was the leader who took Moses’ place. Joshua had huge shoes to fill. He was taking over for the guy who led the Israelites out of Egypt, who received the 10 Commandments from God and parted the Red Sea. I don’t know for sure, but I am pretty sure Joshua was scared silly. I would have been. Moses was a tough act to follow. How was he to know the direction God wanted for his life? Joshua not only had decision he needed to make for himself, he had decisions for an entire nation.

God told him on several occasions to be strong and courageous and to meditate on Him, not the problems at hand.

The pastor at my church said this past Sunday that if you’re a worrier, you already know how to meditate – worry is negative meditation.

Negative meditation means you are trying to solve the problem through your own might and not through His. We spend all of our energies focusing on the problems. I spend a lot of time negatively meditating. I worry and meditate on the stories I write, wanting to get them “just right.” I want to do the stories justice. I think by meditating on the problem, I’ll help get it taken care of.

This might work or it might work for awhile but it is truly walking the path God has for is? Is it living life abundantly? Jesus said that he came so that we might have life and have it abundantly. John 10:10, says the thief comes to kill and destroy, but I came so that you might have life.

The pastor at my church encouraged us to follow what the Lord commanded Joshua, “Study this Book of the Law continually. Meditate on it day and night so you may obey all that is written in it. Only then you will succeed.”

Ponder that for a moment. What does it mean to meditate on it day and night? It means being familiar enough with the Word that it’s like your constant companion – it’s closer to you than you cell phone or iPhone

Think of it like a Twitter feed if you use Twitter. You update it throughout the day, right?

It’s kinda the same with God. You check in during the day. You send up prayers throughout the day. Or it’s like adding a location to Facebook. “Tessa is with God at the grocery store.”

Recently, I’ve been trying to be better about carrying God’s Word around with me and reading it along and along and not just in the morning during my quiet time.

The other day I was at the hospital and while I was waiting, I pulled out my Kindle and read a few verses. It so happened that my appointment was on a Sunday morning. I wasn’t sure if I was going to make church in time. I considered just going home and reading the Bible on my own. But, as I sat and waited and read, God spoke to me through a verse in Hebrews 10:25 that says not to forsake the assembling of believers.

So, I went to church and the message was exactly what I needed to hear.

It was about being strong and courageous. The message was about pondering the Word. The message encouraged me to act in obedience to the small steps He’s given me, and then more will be revealed.

“Study this Book of the Law continually. Meditate on it day and night so you may obey all that is written in it. Only then you will succeed.”

God said only once we meditate and ponder His Word we will succeed. Think about that. There is no success in our plans if God and His Word is not a part of it. That means we’ll have success in our decisions by meditating on His word

Now, back knowing God’s will for our decisions. We’ve talked about how worry doesn’t really help. We know we are supposed to meditate on the Word, what else?

Many times when we are obedient in the small things, God reveals the next step. We may not know where we are supposed to go to college, but God is calling me to spend time in His word. When I do that, He honors the obedience and shows us the next step.

It’s kind of like walking into the flashlight light that you have. Once you step forward with your flashlight you can see more. You don’t know what’s ahead until you step forward.

A practical example of this is I felt the Holy Spirit leading me to pursue two options for my next step in life.  One option is to return here to work. The second option is going back to the U.S. for further study. Now, one way He revealed I can think through this is by making an excel sheet of what I’m looking for in my continued education.

By obeying this guidance, it’ll help me narrow things down and it is walking in obedience to what I already know to do

Now, I am not saying this is what you should do; it’s just an example of obedience in my life.

If we are seeking God in our decisions, He’ll bless us with the best.

Of course another way to discover God’s will is through prayer. God wants us to come before him in prayer with our joys, struggles, thoughts etc.

Philippians 4:6-7 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Bring your decision before God in prayer. Don’t be anxious. With thanksgiving, let our requests be known. He’ll send us peace and take away the anxiety

Prayer is a conversation with God, kind of like a constant instant messaging conversation. The Bible says to be in prayer continually.

Come before him with your struggles, joys, thanksgivings. Remember to lift up others in prayer.

It’s amazing to me when we start praying for others, not only are we giving our brothers and sisters in Christ help, our lives are enriched too.

By reading His word and meditating on Scripture, we’re getting to know God better. Think about it, would you call a close friend a close friend if you never spent time with them? If you didn’t know much about them? If you didn’t listen to them?

God is our Creator and best friend. By spending time with Him, we learn about His will for our life. His will for our life is better than any will we could come up with for our life.

James 4:8 says, “Draw close to God and He will draw close to you.”

As we spend time with God, we’re also able to let the Holy Spirit prompt us. The Holy Spirit is that still, small voice we hear in our heads.

A recent example of this, I was eating in a restaurant in Korea. Outside the window, I saw a homeless woman. She was sitting there, barely moving, with everything she owned in life.

I’m sitting at a Bennigan’s, enjoying a Monte Cristo sandwich and a sweet tea. I heard that still, small voice telling me I should give my leftovers to the woman.

Recently, I had been spending time with the Lord more and it’s amazing how much more He speaks to me. I think a few months ago, I would have been too self-absorbed to even notice the woman or listen to the Holy Spirit telling me to give my leftovers to her.

That is a small example, but the Holy Spirit will speak to us about life events like that. We need to tune our ears to hear him.

Let’s read Matthew 7:7-11

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”

If you knock on someone’s door and walk away before they answer the door, are you going to know what they have to say?

No. You have to wait for them to answer. Sometimes waiting takes some time. If you knock on a person’s door, and they don’t answer, Maybe the person is in the restroom – maybe they are getting dressed. Now, with God, it isn’t these things, but He answers according to His timing and what’s best for us.

God wants us to keep asking, praying and seeking His will. It’s an active thing, not passive waiting game.

1 John 5:14 says, “And we can be confident that He will listen to us whenever we ask Him for anything in line with his will.”

Sometimes the things we are praying for aren’t in line with His will. He has something better in store for us. Do you trust that what He has is infinitely better than what we could ask or imagine?

Sometimes there is sin in our lives we need to repent of first and then God reveals the next step. Is there sin in your life you need to be rid of?

Sin is a roadblock that keeps us from God. Many times when we ask God for the next step in our life, He’ll tell us to first remove the hindrance in between us and Him.

Sometimes we ask selfishly or for things that bring us pleasure but have no heavenly value.

James 4:3 says, “And even when you do ask, you don’t get it because your whole motive is wrong-you only want what will give you pleasure.”

How do we know if our motives are wrong? The more time we spend with God, the more we become like God. The more we become like God, the more our motives line up with him.

We might be tempted to think God’s plans are no fun or will be less fun than what we can come up with for ourselves.

But Jeremiah 29:11 says,

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

I know we hear that verse a lot. But it is really a good one. Believe that is it true, and that God will give you a future and hope.

Psalm 139 says, “You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.”

Do you believe that is true for your life? The journey our God has for us in one of abundant joy. He promises us that. He has a divine journey. Many times we settle for mediocre – we settle for what we can see that is good, but what if we aren’t seeing what’s better?

We think we’ll stay with what we can orchestrate, and not what God can orchestrate for our lives.

We can’t see the whole picture and what fun adventure lay around the corner when we are too busy and worried to go around the corner.

There’s a confidence that comes in seeking Him and taking the steps He’s shown us and He reveals more through our obedience.

If we keep seeking and knocking, spending time in His Word, praying, meditating on it, He’ll reveal His will in the perfect time.

Another way we can hear from the Lord is through godly counsel. God places people in our lives who speak Truth to us.

I would caution you though, to not seek out advice from others first before going before God. I tend to do this. I go to my parents and friends many times before I go to God.

God should always be the first one we run to.  I am working on this in my life. It seems easier to run to the people in our lives because they are there and the answer is quick. I’ve been trying to be better about first running to God.

God does speak through godly people in our lives, so be in tune with God.

I’d like to challenge y’all to think about the decisions and the worries you have in your life. Take a minute to think about them.

Tell God what they are and that you want and need His direction. Ask God to take away the worry, you might have to do this more than once. I often have to keep laying my worry down on the altar. Every time an anxious thought comes, take it captive.

Plan time this week to spend with Him. Set aside time in the morning for a quiet time and a prayer time. In the prayer time, allow time to listen. Throughout the day, think about what you read that morning. Take time during the day to read more in God’s Word. Maybe get a Bible app on your smartphone.

Take time to talk with other believers, to ask them to pray for you and ask how you can pray for them. Allow God to speak to you through others, but make sure you don’t elevate the person to status of God

Talk to Him throughout the day. Journaling my prayers sometimes helps me. Close your day by talking to Him. Be asking Him to show you the small steps you can take each day. Once he shows you, obey and do whatever it is. Look for ways to be obedient, even if it doesn’t seem relate to the decision you’re making or trying to make.

When you pray, don’t just pray for Him to fix your problem or buy your car. Seek to become like Him by aligning yourself to His word. This will guide your prayers and you’ll begin to pray according to His word.

Follow the commands He’s written in the Bible.

When you begin to worry, catch yourself and remind yourself to throw that worry up to God ask God for help. Find areas of sin in your life and ask forgiveness.

If you don’t know Christ as your personal Savior, I’d love to invite you to start this amazing and exciting adventure. Talk to one of the adults there. Seek to know and understand Him through His Word.

I know it’s a scary journey when you’re not the driver of the car. But as God promises as he did Joshua, “Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

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